Archive for the ‘talybont’ Tag

Brecons Gap Route   8 comments

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Since I decided to give cycling another go I’ve had my eye on what looked like a rather fine round called the Brecons Gap Route. So named as it traverses the gap between Fan y Big and Cribyn in the heart of the Brecon Beacons. It’s a good deal tougher in the mountain section than anything I’ve attempted before but the weather was stunning so I figured I could at least give it a go. I set off from Talybont-on-Usk on a gloriously warm sunny day and headed off on the Taff Trail

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The first section was very rough and bouncy. The Taff trail follows the line of an old railway along the valley – at least that’s what I thought. Turns out the first couple of km follow an old bridleway and it was rough going but not too steep and I coped fine

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As it climbed the views began to open out across the Talybont reservoir

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I wandered onto the dam to take a couple of shots. Stunning I thought

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From there its a very long climb up to the pass above the reservoir. Never steep and by now on the old railway line the going was much smoother. They are clearing away the old plantation so the views were superb. Gave me an excuse to stop many times and admire.

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I passed a few people walking but no-one else on a bike. The Beacons Way follows this stretch and it reminds me why I don’t like following pre-ordained long distance routes. There is a superb high level route that would avoid this long endless trudge on foot, a few hundred foot up above on open ground. In fact the Beacons Way actually descends from where that path starts to pick up the Taff Trail and then climbs back up again to meet it a few km later. Why the route chooses to ignore an obvious high level path in favour of a forest trail is beyond me. This trail is ideal for cycling but not for walking. Each to their own I suppose but the D of E groups I saw seemed not to be enjoying the trudge even on this glorious day

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Seeing as this is the age of the selfie, here’s a very rare picture of yours truly enjoying another photo-rest excuse to stop

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From the high point of the road there is a speedy short descent before the trail curves around towards the main part of the Beacons. From here things get a little tougher

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The trail becomes extremely stony and rutted and while not steep was pretty hard work. I’m pleased to say that other than one short section that drops steeply in and out of a stream, I made it all the way to the “gap” (seen in the centre of the photo below) without needing to push or more importantly, falling off

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I have to admit I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. I’d done 15km and close to 500m of ascent and survived to tell the tale. More than that I really enjoyed it – never thought I’d hear myself say that about mountain biking

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I celebrated with a very lengthy stop to have lunch and a brew, chatting to other cyclists as they passed through (this a popular and well-known mountain bike route)

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The descent from the gap gave me my only problem. The first 500m or so is steep and very rough, more like scree than a path. After a couple of nervous attempts I decided discretion was best and pushed for a few minutes. This section really needs a full on, front and rear suspension bike (mine is just a hard-tail). I managed to negotiate my way down carefully. It was wild and bouncy and my bike was making all kinds of rattling noises but again I was very pleased to make it all the way to the road-head without falling off, albeit very much slower than the madcap people taking the descent at full throttle. It must be a hell of an adrenaline rush but if you came off you’d do yourself a really nasty one

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Once on the road its a very fast and steep descent all the way to valley bottom along peaceful wild-flower be-decked country lanes. A real blast. My route back to the car was along the Brecon and Monmouthshire canal. It was superb (and flat!) and gave an excellent last hours wind-down in more peaceful surroundings after the drama of the gap

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The canal has a small aqueduct over the river Usk

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This little bridge just after was picture perfect and I stopped for breather. Nice spot for a picnic I thought. More to follow in a later post

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From there it was an easy cruise along the tow-path. Wild flowers were abundant and the route busy with other cyclists and families enjoying a perfect spring day

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I think TBF would enjoy this part of the ride although definitely not the mountain section! I must fashion a route along the canal and back along the lanes of this quiet corner of the national park

Brecons Gap Route

35km ride in total and a real classic – me, enjoying mountain biking, who’d have thought 🙂

Biting Cold on Tor-y-Foel, Brecon Beacons   12 comments

Still catching up on past adventures and walks. Mind you looking at the weather we have currently this walk could have just have easily taken place today rather than back in mid-February.

The little hill of Tor y Foel sits just the other side of the Talybont Reservoir from the main summits of the Brecon Beacons. It’s caught my eye on several walks, mainly as the end point of a long spur of moor and forest. It would make a great start or endpoint for a long circuit from Talybont, up over the eastern edges of the Beacons and back over this long ridge to Tor y Foel, in effect a round of the reservoir. But that was for another day. This day was grey and cold so just a short jaunt for me and TJS. I’d spied a nice circuit taking in the top and returning along the Usk Valley Walk by the canal. Rather than try to park in the busy village of Llangynidr we opted to park high on the ridge and take in the circuit from there. Not sure why it should feel so odd to start high, walk down and then back up to the start point but it always does. Must be my synchronised and ordered mind 🙂

Tor y Foel

6 miles, 1,700 feet of ascent

The views from the lofty perch where you park the car would be superb on a sunny day but today it was grey but the cloud was off the tops so not too bad. It was however startlingly cold with a keen wind and temperatures below freezing making for a chilly walk.

Talybont Reservoir

Talybont Reservoir

A brisk walk to the top and the wind was even keener. It was as cold as I’ve been out on the hills for a while and we barely paused as we admired the summit and ran off to find some shelter. It was a nice summit with great views as its fairly isolated, need to go back on a warm summers evening after work to enjoy it properly

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TJS on the summit of Tor y Foel

Tor y Foel, Sugar Loaf, Black Mountains

Tor y Foel summit, Sugar Loaf & Black Mountains behind

The wind was blowing through every clothing gap, chilling us to the bone as we walked and half ran down the ridge. The ground was frozen solid and there was a very light dusting of snow. Be a good slope to ski on as it’s grassy and steep. Probably should have gone out this weekend but I’m prepping for a cold and wintry backpacking trip to the Western Highlands over Easter so I’m keen to keep my gear dry

Tor y Foel

Descending Tor y Foel

There is a band of trees about halfway down and this suddenly and unexpectedly gave shelter from the wind. It was amazingly calm and nothing like as cold so we stopped for lunch. Despite the weather it was actually warmer than the lunch stop we had in the sun on Crug Mawr the previous weekend.

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Lunchtime

From there it was a pleasant stroll over the frozen fields to Llangynidr. Quite an unusual feeling to walk on firm ground rather than the boggy muddy mess of the previous few months

Tor y Foel, Llangynidr

Tor y Foel from Llangynidr

From Llangynidr it was onto the Monmouthshire a Brecon Canal. There were a few boats docked below the locks seemingly in for repair ready for the new season. Other than that there wasn’t a soul around so it was a very easy-going stroll along the banks of the semi-frozen canal.

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, Llangynidr

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal at Llangynidr

TJS had some fun poking holes in the ice with my poles

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, Llangynidr

Breaking the Ice

I was surprised that TJS had not seen a canal lock before so I had to explain how the boats use them and what a marvellous and simple invention they were at a time before true industrialisation. I imagine cruising along in summer would be a nice day out but it’s not for me. I’d prefer to walk along these old byways and on this day it was undeniably enjoyable, especially as we were out of the cold wind

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, Llangynidr

More Locks

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

Tor y Foel from the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

After a couple of miles the Usk Valley Walk makes a steady rising traverse across the fields back to the road where we parked the car. Unspectacular on such a grey day but all part of a varied day with some decent views across to the western Black Mountains and the Sugar Loaf

Black Mountains, Usk Valley Walk

Black Mountains from the Usk Valley Walk

All that remained was a walk back along the road to the car. Cold and grey but a fine walk to be repeated and you can have too much blue sky and sunshine

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